Two dead after earthquake off coast of Greek islands
Buildings damaged by 6.5 magnitude quake that struck south of Turkish city of Bodrum
Two people were killed and five seriously injured on the Greek island of Kos after an earthquake hit tourist destinations around the Aegean sea in the early hours of Friday.
The magnitude 6.5 quake injured a further 200 people in Greek and Turkish coastal towns.
The damage was, however, much less than could have been expected for an earthquake of its size. The United States Geological Survey said it was a very shallow quake – only 10km below the seabed – off the south-western coastal city of Marmaris in Mugla province, Turkey.
The epicentre was just 10km miles south of the Turkish resort of Bodrum and 16km from Kos.
The two dead on Kos were identified as Turkish and Swedish nationals and were killed when the ceiling of a bar in the centre of Kos town collapsed. Five other people in the bar – two Swedes, two Greeks and one Norwegian – were seriously injured and flown to Crete for medical treatment. One is reported to have suffered extensive leg injuries.
Kos, in the Dodecanese archipelago, and the Turkish towns of Bodrum and Datça are all tourist destinations.
The quake, the second exceeding magnitude 6 to hit Greece’s coastal region bordering Turkey in recent weeks, produced more than 100 aftershocks. A second tremor measuring 5.1 struck 25km south of Leros, after the initial earthquake hit Kos at 1.53am local time (11.53pm Irish Time). Three further tremors measuring 4.6, 4.5 and 4.7 followed.
Tourists described the violent quake and aftershocks. Michael Heckmann, on holiday in Kos from Germany with his wife and four children, said: “It was very scary – the whole room was shaking when the earthquake hit. We were woken up when the beds were shaking and bending. When I stood up I was still being shaken and the whole room seemed to be moving around.
“It was really frightening. I woke up all my kids and told them we had to get outside. It was my first earthquake and was very scary. Everybody got out of the hotel and we stayed outside the buildings for about an hour and then the hotel management told us it was safe to go back into the buildings.”
Tom Riesack, also from Germany, said: “We were literally shaken out of our beds from deep sleep. The whole room was shaking and we fled the room into the open.”
Television footage from Mugla province in Turkey showed hundreds of people abandoning their buildings and waiting on the streets, as others ran away from buildings on roads.
Ethymios Lekkas, Greece’s top geology professor, said Kos should expect to be rattled by aftershocks “for up to two weeks” but said that for an earthquake of such magnitude, the damage had been very limited. A similar 6.2-magnitude earthquake that hit the island of Lesbos last month caused much greater destruction.
“With the exception of our two fellow human beings who died, the effects have been very small,” he said. “We have had a very big earthquake of 6.5 Richter and only the port and two very big buildings have really been affected by it, which is very important and shows the level of construction.”
He said the aftershocks would gradually reduce tectonic tension in the region. “They will be well under five on the scale and won’t cause a problem,” he said. “I am not worried. Buildings on the island have shown great resilience because they have been constructed to strict anti-seismic criteria.”
The professor also clarified that the tidal wave caused by the quake and witnessed in Kos port was much smaller than originally reported. “It did not exceed 70 cm and was very small,” he said.
Yiannis Glynou, who heads the technical chamber in the Dodecanese islands and is in Kos surveying the impact on buildings, told the country’s news agency: “The damage is limited to old stone buildings. New buildings on the island, including numerous hotel units, are showing almost none or no problems.”
The quake has struck at the start of the peak tourist season for Kos and Bodrum, with many travellers expected to arrive in the coming weeks. This Saturday would typically be one of the busiest weekends for arrivals.
Fraport, the German-led consortium managing 14 regional airports in Greece, says Kos airport was operating “only with slight delays” and it expected them to be ironed out during the course of the day. It said the aiport’s runways and buildings had all been “extensively checked” for possible damage.
Ferries to Kos were however suspended after the port suffered damage.
Greek government spokesman, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, said that in contrast to the Lesbos earthquake the damage on Kos was limited. “Slowly, slowly life is returning to normality,” he said.
The UK Foreign Office has advised British tourists to follow the advice of local authorities and tour operators.
More than 600 people died in October 2011 in Turkey’s eastern province of Van after a quake of 7.2 magnitude and powerful aftershocks. In 1999, two massive earthquakes killed about 20,000 people in the densely populated north-west of the country. A 5.9-magnitude quake in 1999 killed 143 people in Greece.